Book review: Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer, by Heather Henson, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Henson, Heather. Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer. Bryan Collier, Ill. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN 9781481420952. Ages 4-8. P7Q8

henson-lift-your-lightHenson guides us through Mammoth Cave, Kentucky with the words of the slave/cave explorer Stephen Bishop. Bishop came to Mammoth Cave as a slave when he was a teenager, and lived his whole life there, learning the extensive cave system, mapping it, and guiding tourists through it. Henson’s imagination of what Bishop might have said to a group of tourists in the dark of the cave is poetic and eloquent, as Bishop was reputed to be. The illustrations by Bryan Collier are done in watercolor and collage. They’re dark and rich, and are very appropriate for the subject matter. I loved the tone of the story- Bishop was a slave, bought and owned along with the cave system, but in his work he was a man- an expert and a guide, leading crowds safely in and out of the cave. There are author’s notes, illustrator’s notes, and resources at the end of the book.

VERDICT: Older children learning about slavery in America will find this story very interesting and different from what they have probably read before. I love how the author and illustrator focused on the dignity and humanity of Bishop.

March 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

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